More Pages Coming Soon!

Wednesday 29 January 2014

WIP Wednesday

Here are some of my Works In Progress (WIPs) on the quilting frontier.

1. Queen Batik Quilt

 I had great fun making Half Square Triangles (HSTs) for the windmill squares in this quilt. Unfortunately I seem to always insist on learning through experience and, as a beginner, I made a boo-boo that I'm sure will greatly affect the quality of my finished quilt.

I cut my fabric into squares and then marked the center diagonal. I then sewed up either side of this line and then cut along the line. I opened the two sides and ironed them flat and I thought that was all I had to do to make an HST. 


I should have made one more cut, cutting the HST squares back down to the correct size and lining up the diagonals. I didn't do this, and I have already sewn groups of 4 HSTs together for the big windmill blocks I need for the finished quilt.

Here are 12 of my big blocks, sewn together in strips. I made a mistake, here, too. Can you see it? One block is turned the wrong way, I had to rip out the seams and sew it again.
This is going to be my next finished quilt, I know it.

2. Fuzzy Robot Quilt (for David)

I made up a pattern for this quilt. I wanted to use up my stash of fleece fabric and also incorporate some robot print flannel that my mom bought for David.
I cut a bunch of 5" by 10" pieces first, and then played around with some arrangements before finally deciding to go with the diagonal rows. I wonder if I should have gone with the blocks?

This quilt top needs some more rows and I ran out of some colors. One of these days I'll pick it up again, it should be pretty quick to finish.

3. Block of the Month (BOM) 2014

I have started a BOM project that was originally published in 2013. So, all the patterns are already available and I can do them at my leisure - though realistically I want to do one block per month because that is a realistic goal when I consider all of the other projects I have on the go. (Pets, gardens, kids, crafts, etc!)

The completed pattern is called the Sister's Ten Quilt and is published by Gen X Quilters. They are all modern blocks and are named for special women - this square is "Grandmother's Frame."

By the way - for this block I DID cut out my HSTs to square before sewing. I have not finished sewing it all together yet. All the blocks are going to use up my scraps and I am going to try and incorporating my cream and grey musical score fabric into every block for some continuity.

4. To Quilt or Not To Quilt?

I found this huge quilt top at the free store and I passed it up. Then I saw it again and brought it home and washed it, now I just can't decide if I want to turn it into a quilt or not. There are a few squares that need to be replaced and I'm not a big fan of the combination of fabrics. But, someone put a lot of work into making this and it would be easy to turn it into a real quilt. Should I do it or not?

I also am collecting the "Ten Little Ducks" Eric Carle series by Andover Fabrics, and I have a beautiful stash of Christmas fabric and a pattern picked out. All in good time.

I know spring is coming because David and I saw the first wild baby lamb of the year this week. They are just starting to be born in the woods in our area.


David loves to swing. I can't believe my little guy is almost three years old!

Monday 27 January 2014

Raising Baby Chicks

I brought home a dozen day-old chicks of various breeds. They are adorable and I am playing mother hen by keeping hot water bottles hot, providing as much food and water as they want, stroking their downy feathers and washing their butts.

Yes, I am washing chicken butts. Sometimes with baby chicks, their poop sticks to their butt feathers and dries, blocking the exit. This is called "pasting up" and it can kill them. So, I have been routinely picking up all the chicks and giving them some affection while checking their little chicken butts for crusties.

If needed, I try to dissolve the butt blockage with warm water first and then it must be removed - the chicks do not like this but it has to be done!

The chicks are all random breeds and it will be interesting to see what they turn out to be. There are definitely bantams, Silkies, Cochins, some Barred Rock and Red Australorp in the mix. They are also unsexed so I am anticipating about 6 hens and 6 roosters, give or take.

David is having so much fun playing with the little birds.

Stewie is also very interested and keeps a close watch on the brooder. I let him smell some chicks and he tried to lick the birds in my hand. I was a little bit worried that he was confusing them for a tasty treat.Yesterday I heard him give a little "woof!" from over by the box - one baby chick had escaped. Stewie sounded the alarm. That reassured me that Stewie is in fact standing guard and is not just waiting for a chicken-flavored snack!

I took some photos of an amazing crab dinner we had last night. These were locally caught dungeness crabs that were still alive about an hour before we ate them.

I steamed them for about 15 minutes in a pot with an inch of water in the bottom. Halfway through cooking I poured some of my homemade wine on them.

I caramelized some leeks and onions and garlic with kale and Brussels Sprouts. So nice to eat out of the garden in January! I made a dipping sauce for the legs with butter and fresh rosemary.

The crab legs were some of the best meat I have ever had in my life. Every part of the legs are full of succulent crab meat, and the juice was delicious, salt water and wine. 

Keep checking in, I have a lot going on in crafty-land!
Thanks so much for reading.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Basket Weaving

I wanted to touch on the subject of basket weaving by both showing off some of the baskets I have made and also highlighting one of my favorite books.
This book has wonderful information and diagrams about almost everything you could want to do as a homesteader. It doesn't go into too much detail about any particular subject, but provides excellent information about home skills - and the craft section is awesome!

This book has a few different basket patterns and the one I base most of my willow baskets on is a carry-all that can be made out of honeysuckle vines.

*Second and third editions of this book have been published, and the cover is now different. I recommend the original, but the later editions still have lots of valuable information!*

In addition to weaving with willow I have also used grape vines, New Zealand flax leaves, wild blackberry runners, and grasses.

This basket was made with willow and a decorative plant called New Zealand Flax.
With most materials there is a softening process required to make the vines pliable and easy to work with. This can be soaking or even cooking the vines in hot water. A basket is worked with wet, pliable material and then dries up sturdy.

My sister took this photo of me as I was taking a bundle of willow out of the shallow end of my pond. I had a bundle of dry willow whips and I soaked it for about 6 days before removing it and beginning my basket. I also split the flax leaves into long fibers and soaked them for a few days in a bucket of water.

This little basket was made with wild blackberry runners. I stripped them of their little thorns with a pair of leather gloves, and then I let them simmer in a big pot on my woodstove for a couple hours. They were like big freaky noodles and the water was a beautiful purple.

In addition to basket making, knitting, and assembling my quilt (as if I don't have enough on my plate) tomorrow I am picking up ten baby chicks! I am so excited to get them but I have never raised birds before. 

On the quilting front, my batik quilt top is so close to being finished, I just have the last leg of sewing to do. Here is a sneak peak at my pattern and fabric. 

This is a free pattern and I will share it when I show off my finished quilt.

This year I hope to interview and get some tips from our local pro basket weaver, David. He pays close attention to detail and makes all sorts of baskets out of willow. He also has a stripping device that removes the bark from willow to make it white and smooth.

Here he is at our local market enjoying a doughnut with some of his exquisite baskets.
You want to see a picture of those homemade doughnuts, too, I know it.

Wishing you a scrumptious day!

Monday 20 January 2014

Mending vs. Upcycling

I often think of myself as "upcycling" something when, in actuality, I'm just "fixing" it. But there is still a real sense of satisfaction in giving something a new life and saving it from being thrown away.

To mend: to repair something that is broken or damaged.

To upcycle: to reuse discarded objects or material in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

I recently found a great backpack that had a broken zipper. The material is heavy canvas and it has a bead work patch near the bottom.

I removed the zipper and was so lucky to find another one in my stash that was just the right size. It even matched the beads in the little patch!

Good as new.

I also recently recovered my favorite office chair with some great tweedy fabric that I got for free.
I took the chair apart, did some quick sewing with the machine, and attached the new cushion covers with... HOT GLUE.

The hot glue worked because the chair is screwed back together through the fabric seams which will hold everything in place even if the glue fails. In my sewing and gluing frenzy, I did not think to take "before" photos of the faded orange and sharpie-marker-stained fabric. Oh well.

Both of these projects are more like "mending" than "upcycling", right? 
...Still crafty!

In other homesteading news, the weather has been mild enough to get into the garden. I have been weeding and appreciating my stalwart winter veggies, especially the beautiful leeks.

I have a strong suspicion that these leeks are "Blue Solaise". This is a French heirloom variety of leek and it grows bigger and better than any other variety I have tried. This patch was grown from seeds that I saved from a harvest in my garden two years ago.
Leeks make beautiful flowers that bees and butterflies love.

Leeks also produce a small bulb at their roots, which looks like a little clove of garlic. This bulb will grow into a big, beautiful leek! Leeks are amazing food producers and are hardy and delicious. They are certainly one of the more under-appreciated vegetables.

I am looking forward to the overwintering Brassicas sprouting red and purple broccoli this spring, too.

Also, my four goats are all pregnant and I think they are starting to show!

It is hard to tell if their belly bulges are babies or just a wad of hay and gas. (Lovely)
But the real sign is on the udder. These goats all have firm and perky teats.

Firefly wishes you all a wonderful week.

Friday 17 January 2014

Warm and Woolly Knits

I finally finished my Fair Isle mittens. Tragically, I ran out of this lovely, hairy maroon yarn right in the middle of the project. I added the inverted Fair Isle strip at the top of the mittens and had literally one inch of yarn leftover when it was time to add the thumbs. So, the thumbs are in white with a little bit of some sparkly red yarn - the closest color I had to hairy maroon.

I was bummed that I had to alter my pattern, but while I knit the thumbs I decided to infuse them with good luck. These are now hitch-hiking mittens. A little magic sparkle for that perfect ride.  At the very least they will keep my hands cozy against a cold steering wheel because I am usually the driver.

I wrote out the pattern for these mittens and I am happy to share it. Please comment if you are interested!

I have also perfected my pattern for thick and woolly slippers. After making them too floppy, too small, and too large, I finally got it down. My next pair is going to be even better...

They are all knit with fat needles and several strands of yarn, so the slippers hold their shape.

I plan to make a bunch of these slippers. If you want some, let me know!

One more woolly wonder I must share with you is my Cowichan Sweater.
These sweaters are thickly knit and were traditionally made by First Nations people on Vancouver Island, who combined European Fair-Isle knitting techniques with Coast Salish spinning and materials. They are heavy, warm, and so perfect for this coastal weather.

The detail is hard to see in this photo, it was getting dark.
Trust me that the knitting on this garment is flawless. 
There are two pockets in the front and the seam work is invisible.

I wish I could meet the person who made this beautiful sweater. 

This yoga posture is called, "Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose". Kind of unimaginative, don't you think? In sanskrit it is, "Utthita Hasta Padangustasana." Kind of a mouthful.

I was always bad about posing for photos. Now, in lieu of a fake smile, my leg flies into the air.

I am working towards holding my foot with both hands, behind my head, while balancing on the other foot in a pose called Natarajasana. You can bet I will post a photo here when I've got it.
Stay tuned to the blog for that and some batik quilting progress.

I leave you with a picture of the fog rolling into our valley tonight.


You May Also Like: